Saturday, December 15, 2007

Apple #287: Anniversaries

  • Most people think of the word "anniversary" in connection with weddings, or how long a couple has been married. But really, an anniversary can mark any event.
  • The word comes from two Latin words, annus which means "year", and versus which means "turned." In other words, an anniversary commemorates the passage of a year.

"The best way to forget something is to commemorate it."
--The History Boys, by Alan Bennett

  • In fact, the first known use of the word "anniversary" in English was in a religious sense. The word first appeared in print around 1230 A.D. in a devotional book for nuns. It wasn't until 1673 that the phrase "wedding anniversary" appeared in English usage.

"I once wanted to be an atheist, but I gave up -- they have no holidays."
--Henny Youngman

  • A birthday is a kind of anniversary. The Spanish way of wishing someone "happy birthday" makes this pretty plain: felix compleanos literally means "happy completion of another year."

"He that outlives this day, and comes safe home
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named"
--Henry V, Shakespeare

  • Our Independence Day here in the United States is another kind of anniversary. Each year, we celebrate the passage of another year since our country declared its independence from England and we mark the fact that our country is another year older.
  • Veterans' Day, sometimes also called Armistice Day, commemorates the end of World War I. The war officially ended in June of 1919, but on November 11, 1918, the Allied nations and Germany agreed to a temporary cease-fire, or armistice. So Veterans Day is celebrated each year on November 11.

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
--"For the Fallen," by Laurence Binyon

  • For some people, anniversaries can be really difficult. If someone you love has died, anniversaries seem to pop up all over the place, and they can trigger feelings of sadness all over again. Such difficult days can include the anniversary of the person's death day, their birthday, Christmas or other holidays that had particular meaning, or if it was a romantic relationship, days that were especially important to the two of you such as the day you first met.

"The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart."
--"Holidays" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • If this is true for you, allow yourself the time to feel whatever it is you're feeling. Just because a certain amount of time has passed, that doesn't mean you're supposed to be "over it." Sad things happen. It's okay to be sad.
  • Some things you can do on difficult anniversaries include:
      • Make sure you're with friends or family members
      • List the good things you remember about the person you lost
      • Write the person a letter telling him or her all the things you meant to say
      • Start a new tradition in honor of the person, such as making a journey someplace meaningful, or establishing a charitable fund in your loved one's memory
      • If it's a loss you share with others, such as a loss of your loved one to war, attending a group ceremony or memorial can bring you together with others at a difficult time.

Whether you're having a bad anniversary or a good one, know that there will be more good anniversaries to come. More birthdays, more peace agreements, more feast days, more life.

Sources, The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Anniversaries and the Origin of History, by Michael Olmert
India Pakistan Trade Unit, Sikh Religious Holidays and Muslim Religious Holidays
Exploring Religions, Buddhism, Time and Worship
United States Department of Veterans Affairs, History of Veterans Day
MayoClinic's article sourced at CNN, Grief: Coping with reminders after a loss
Quotations found using Bartleby's, Quoteland, and Michael Olmert's page on Anniversaries

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